Kanagawa: Meet Shomei Yoh’s pastel-colored landscapes

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A visitor views “Seinaru Koshin” (The holy procession), the largest oil painting by Shomei Yoh on display at the Yoh Shomei Art Museum.

Sunny is the name of a rabbit with distinctive navy-colored ears.

He makes his way around the world, removing landmines and planting seeds of flowers in their place — such is the adventure depicted in the picture book “Not Mines, But Flowers,” published in 1996.

Fusako Yanase took on such heavy topics in the book, which became a best seller, probably thanks in part to the power of Shomei Yoh’s carefully crafted illustrations.

Artist and picture book creator Yoh, 75, made his debut in 1973. Popular for painting adorable animals and picturesque landscapes, he made his mark in the Shi to Meruhen (Poem and Marchen) magazine, for which the late Takashi Yanase — a renowned illustrator and mangaka — was the editor-in-chief. Yoh won the Graphic Prize at the Bologna International Children’s Book Fair in 1990 for his illustrations in the picture book “Kaze to Hyo” (The Wind of the Panther).

The prize is awarded to creators of outstanding children books. He has also been a bold voice on social issues such as war and the global environment.

The Yoh Shomei Art Museum in Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture, presents his artistic career, which spanned nearly 50 years. Located near Meigetsuin, a well-known temple often referred to by its nickname, Ajisaidera (Hydrangea temple), the museum is a two-story Western-style structure.

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The Western-style exterior of the museum and its beautiful garden

The facility is imagined as a house where an artist-poet lives with his family. Each room is designed under a different theme, which determines the exhibits in the room.

In the first-floor gallery reserved for oil paintings, there are 12 Yoh works, each expressing his feelings and thoughts. The largest piece, “Seinaru Koshin” (The holy procession), is approximately 1.6 meters wide and 1.1 meters tall.

Its simple composition features a horizon, a large halo of the sun and a procession of people. The gentle colors give the piece an ephemeral feel, which draws in the hearts of those who view it.

Upstairs, the first thing one sees is the father’s room, where there are artworks as well as reading materials, including pop-up books.

Adjacent to this space is the boy’s room, where there are toys from Yoh’s collections. The girl’s room features a chandelier and is all white, a refreshing look.

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The museum’s girl’s room, decorated in all-white

There are 70 to 80 exhibits in these rooms, some changed regularly.

The museum is a nice place to view art, pick up a picture book and spend a leisurely time on the cozy sofas placed throughout the facility.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Visitors relax in a cozy area of the museum.

During my visit, I saw a piece inspired by the Chornobyl nuclear power plant disaster in Ukraine, and it made me think of peace.

Yoh Shomei Art Museum

The museum opened in 1991. It is a seven-minute walk from JR Kita-Kamakura Station. Hydrangea blossoms beautify the garden, which becomes filled with the red color of sweetgum trees in autumn. Those who are lucky will be able to meet Emu, the 3-year-old male cat that serves as the museum’s mascot.

Address: 318-4 Yamanouchi, Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture

Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Open every day.

Admission: ¥600 for high school students and older, ¥300 for elementary and junior high school students